CLEVELAND — We’re still about two months away from learning which artists will make up the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s Class of 2022. But that hasn’t stopped fans from making arguments (some extremely passionate ones) for their favorites.
This year’s ballot featured a diverse list of 17 artists, several of which have been nominated before. In ranking the nominees, we tried to take personal opinions out of the equation as much as possible.
We based the rankings on our Rock Hall tiers scoring system, which gives points to each act for appearing on critics’ lists such as Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Albums,” the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s “Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll” and All Music’s most influential artists of all time.
To sum it up, the rankings give some insight into the general understanding of how influential this year’s nominees are, as well as how many essential albums and songs they’ve released throughout their respective careers.
Of course, not everyone will agree with our rankings. But we’ll find out who earns induction in May.
This probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise, given Eminem’s massive success, quality of music (especially during the first part of his career) and his overwhelming influence on pop culture. Eminem is the biggest hip-hop artist of all time by a wide margin with a resume of classic albums, hit singles and essential moments that rival some of the biggest artists of all time. In our Rock Hall tiers system, Eminem’s scores would place him among the likes of Fleetwood Mac, Tom Waits and Beastie Boys.
2. Kate Bush
Bush isn’t the biggest name on this year’s ballot. But she has as much critical acclaim as anyone. She ranks as one of the most influential female artists of the last half-century and a prominent figure in art-rock and art-pop circles. Her lack of mainstream success in the U.S. may keep her out of this year’s class. If so, expect her to return to the ballot in the future.
Beck’s resume speaks for itself. His first major single, “Loser,” was a generational anthem for the 1990s. He went on to release celebrated albums in three different decades, while earning the Grammys’ coveted Album of the Year award for 2014’s “Morning Phase.” He’s also one of the most respected musicians of the past 30 years.
4. A Tribe Called Quest
There’s a backlog of potentially worthy hip-hop artists lining up for Rock Hall consideration. Near the top of the list is A Tribe Called Quest. There are acts like Eric B. and Rakim or De La Soul that were more influential, and artists like Outkast and Snoop Dogg that were more successful. But A Tribe Called Quest had one of the greatest album streaks in modern music history to start its career and continued to release exceptional material all the way up to “We Got It from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service” in 2016.
The global success of “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” can make you overlook just how influential the Eurythmics were. The duo of Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart became integral figures in the growth of electronic music in the 1980s with their impact still felt in today’s electronic-heavy pop landscape. And that goes beyond just one song or album.
6. Duran Duran
The members of Duran Duran became huge pop culture figures in the 1980s at just the right time to conquer the music video format. The group is likely to win this year’s Rock Hall Fan Vote, which begs the question of why they don’t rank higher on this list. In some circles — right or wrong — Duran Duran’s impact is mostly held up by one album, 1982’s “Rio.”
MC5 ranks among the most influential artists on this year or any year’s ballot. The band’s back-to-basics sound in the late 1960s would go on to influence an endless number of punk and garage rock artists, including The Stooges, Ramones, Sex Pistols, Alice Cooper, Motorhead and The Clash. Had MC5 stuck around to release more than just two albums, the band would probably be a shoo-in for the Rock Hall.
8. Dolly Parton
There’s no denying Dolly Parton is one of music’s greatest icons and the most beloved artist on this year’s ballot. Yet it’s difficult to assess Parton’s Rock Hall candidacy using a system that looks at rock and roll music. This comes down to whether or not you think country artists belong in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Ever-humble, Parton says she’s hasn’t “earned the right” to this nomination and has since withdrawn her name from contention. What a class act.
9. Dionne Warwick
Dionne Warwick could make a case as an “Early Influence” nominee into the Rock Hall (especially given the museum’s broader definition of the category). She was releasing mainstream pop songs consistently in the 1960s when it was unheard of for a black woman to venture outside soul music. It can be hard to compare Warwick to some of the other artists on this year’s ballot since she wasn’t really part of the album era. But her resume is stacked with powerhouse singles and generations of vocalists who were inspired by her.
10. Rage Against the Machine
For about a half-decade, Rage Against the Machine was one of the biggest rock bands in the world, combining earth-shattering hard rock tunes with a political message that didn’t limit the band’s audience. Rage has always been a critical darling. But rap-metal isn’t a favorite genre for highbrow music fans, which means Rage’s influence may be underestimated by voters.
Fans of Devo recognize the Akron band’s influence on the new wave and post-punk movements of the late 1970s, as well as Devo’s impact on the landscape of alternative music moving into the 1980s. Still, detractors might dismiss the band as having just one significant hit in “Whip It.”
12. Carly Simon
It was a bit of a surprise to see Simon’s name on the ballot for the first time, considering she’s been eligible since 1997. That doesn’t mean she’s not worthy. Simon was one of the quintessential singer-songwriters — male or female — of the 1970s, while her influence can be felt on modern pop stars like Taylor Swift, Carly Rae Jepsen and Florence Welch.
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13. Fela Kuti
Fela Kuti scored big in last year’s Fan Vote, drawing attention to his tremendous influence. What the Afrobeat pioneer lacks in mainstream hits, he more than makes up for in spreading global recognition for a genre that impacted everyone from Talking Heads and Peter Gabriel to Paul Simon and Vampire Weekend.
14. New York Dolls
New York Dolls were one of the first gritty rock and roll bands, setting the template for the likes of Ramones, Sex Pistols and Guns N’ Roses. The Dolls seem like a logical choice with the recent induction of a band like T. Rex. But the band tends to get recognized only from a historical perspective for one album (1973’s “New York Dolls”) and one song (“Personality Crisis”).
15. Judas Priest
It’s surprising to see Judas Priest this low in our rankings. It appears Priest gets the same treatment as most metal bands vying for induction and critical acclaim. Mainstream success seems to be the name of the game, which is why Metallica and Black Sabbath have earned induction and others — Priest and Motorhead — have missed out.
16. Lionel Richie
Lionel Richie rates as one of the most polarizing artists on this year’s ballot for being nominated as a solo act instead of with his early career funk/soul band the Commodores. That divide shows in Richie’s low ranking here. His solo hits weren’t enough to carry him, while had he been combined with the Commodores, his case might have been more airtight.
17. Pat Benatar
Pat Benatar (nominated with spouse and longtime musical partner Neil Giraldo) feels like a Rock & Roll Hall of Famer. But Benatar hasn’t earned as much critical acclaim as some of the other acts on this list, which keeps her at the bottom despite a handful of huge hits and an influence on acts like Sheryl Crow and Melissa Etheridge that’s obvious.
This article is written by Troy L. Smith from Tribune Content Agency and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the Industry Dive Content Marketplace. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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